Subject: Syracuse Editorial on Vojtas Promotion
In the morning POST-STANDARD (5/8/97, A14):


The white residents of Brentwood, Pa., who repeatedly cheered the promotion of Brentwood Officer John Vojtas, despite his role in Syrcusan Jonny Gammage's traffic-stop death on Oct. 12, 1995, have clearly drawn their battle lines.

They sent a message that it does not matter if a life has been ripped away from a family, a community and a nation of African-AMericans and others who've watched the same disteressing scenario play out time after time.

It does not matter if those paid to protect and serve have played a culpable role in a citizen's death over an alleged bad car light.

It only matters that a good ol' boy got off and, to boot, received a promotion after his acquittal on involuntary manslaughter charges.

And life is good in Brentwood again.

Where is the logic in this? Where is the compassion for the loss of a human life? At the least, where is the remorse for the hideous timing of such a promotion, in the wake of a mistrial for the remaining two officers involved in Gammage's death?

We can stop looking for the answers because they're right therein the sick mentality that a black life is worth less than a white one.

It's been said before and we'll say it again: If the tables were turned and Gammage wound up killing Vojtas or one of the other two officers charged in his "accidental" death while defending himself, would those same people who not once, but several times, cheered Vojtas and his promotion, be so cheerful?

Surely some of them would demand the death penalty for Gammage, nothing less. And judging from the standards of the flawed process of Gammage's actual case, they might even get it.

Not even if both officer and motorist were black could there have been such cheers at a promotion in the wake of such a tragic murder.

But the dust has not settled on this case. Federal civil rights charges may yet bring sanity and justice to the case and the officers involved.

In any event, many blacks have felt an "open season" has long been declared on them. The outright, conscious decision by Brentwood's police department and officials to single out Vojtas for special honor and afformation, reafformed by the crowd reaction, screamed that it is true on Tuesday. And it screamed so with an attitude.

Could you imagine anyone in that cheering crowd bearing a black face? Not likely.

A music rapper may have summed up what the signs around Brentwood say to a black person: "Your home is my home," Chuck D. of Public Enemy said. "Welcome to the Terrordome."